With heightened warnings that Russia could be preparing a major cyber attack on the US, the Biden administration would expect the Australia, New Zealand and United States Security Treaty (ANZUS) to be invoked in full support of America, according to a senior official.
Such a decision could draw Australia into a retaliatory American cyber assault on Vladimir Putin’s regime, drawing Australia directly into any confrontation.
The top cyber security adviser to President Joe Biden, Anne Neuberger, told reporters in Sydney that the US equally would support Australia in the event that it suffered a major cyber attack.
The Biden administration last week called to a classified briefing several hundred US companies to warn them that it had detected Russian preparations for a possible cyber attack on critical infrastructure. This category includes power grids, water supplies, financial systems, hospitals and transport networks.
Moscow could be planning an attack in retaliation for US sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Ms Neuberger said. “If Russia initiates a cyber attack on the US, we will respond.”
Asked whether she expected Australia to invoke ANZUS in response, Ms Neuberger said, “the partnership between the US and Australia on intelligence and cybersecurity is so deep that we would expect that if there was any significant cyber attack, whether in Australia or the US, we would each be there for the other in terms of rapid intelligence sharing, rapid incident response and remediation, and then determining attribution and consequences.”
She said that this had been canvassed in “regular discussions with our Australian counterparts”. She was speaking at the conclusion of a two-day meeting of top cyber officials of the Quad nations: Australia, India, Japan and the US.
The ANZUS Treaty, signed in 1951, was amended in 2011 under Julia Gillard’s prime ministership to include cyber attack as well as military attack as a potential trigger for a joint response.